LSU Chancellor Michael Martin released a new statement during the weekend to clarify that he does not support the obscenities and objects thrown at a graduate student who had originally planned to burn an American flag last week on campus.
LSU graduate student Benjamin Haas planned to burn an American flag by the Parade Ground to promote his First Amendment rights, but instead decided to read a statement promoting peace and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Haas also was supporting the rights of another student arrested two weeks ago for stealing and burning the flag at the LSU War Memorial.
But Haas was met with nearly 1,000 counterprotesters, some of whom threw water balloons and bottles at him while chanting “U-S-A” and “Go to hell hippie, go to hell.”
Police had to intervene and direct Haas to safety before he could read his statement.
Later that day, LSU released a news release about the events that did not mention the foul language, water balloons and more directed at Haas.
That release included the comment from Martin, “I also thought today brought out a wonderful display of patriotism among the students conducting the counter-protest.”
The online arts blog, allography.com responded by selling “Civil Discourse Kits” of water balloons and bottles on eBay. The online posting had the added message, “If you want to let Mr. Martin know how you feel about him and thank him for redefining what is meant by patriotism and civil discourse, we urge you to call him …”
There also was a petition started at Change.org criticizing Martin and LSU’s media relations staff, arguing in part, “LSU’s Chancellor did nothing to denounce the violent mob — even praising the ‘patriotism’ of the ‘counter-protest.’”
However, Martin clarified in his updated statement, “I do not condone the behavior of that portion of the crowd who … resorted to verbal threats and physical actions against the student while and after he tried to read his statement.”
Martin also stated, “Let me make these points clear: I do not condone the burning of the flag, but I defend the right for someone to express their freedom of speech by doing so. I applaud the many who responded with great passion to speak up for what their flag represents, and that was the purpose of the inspiring patriotic counter-protest that was organized …”
The organized counter-protest that continued after Haas’ departure included the pledge of allegiance and the singing of the national anthem.
Thank you Chancellor Martin! First off, I'm no flag burner and I think Haas is an idiot extremist. However, everyone is condemning him for exercising his rights via a peaceful protest (with a permit) - and he never even brought a flag with him to burn!!! Instead of being allowed to speak, he was bullied and pelted. Whether you agree with him or not is not the point; intolerance should NEVER be acceptable in this country. If everyone would have calmed down and listened to what he had to say, they would have heard this:
Funny Facebook said that there were only going to be 64 of you. I initially began this flag burning protest to define due process for students and suspected terrorists alike, to call on LSU and universities across the country to defend basic human rights and avoid putting students into the criminal justice system when it can be taken care of internally.
Solidarity means standing with those who are treated as guilty until proven innocent, instead of the other way around. That's what freedom is, standing with those who express their constitutional rights in ways that may be unpopular, especially the accused and the marginalized no matter the consequences.
In the name of peace, there will be no flag burning today. This country and the flag that flies over it stands for freedom, democracy, love, peace and the ability to question our government.
I initially began this flag-burning protest to defend due process for students and suspected terrorists alike; to call on LSU and universities across the country to defend basic human rights and avoid putting students into the criminal justice system when it can taken care of internally.But today, it feels like it's just about hate and violence, I have received more than 100 threats on my life and on the lives of those I care about. but I also received numerous calls of support from those who agreed with me, military veterans, and even those who said they disagreed with the method I proposed but wanted to show me their support, and for that I am thankful.
We can be better than this. We may disagree on what forms of dissent are appropriate and what the proper forums are to voice them, but the important thing is that we come together and defend the right to dissent at all, especially when this country has asserted its ability to declare anyone an enemy who has a different opinion than the majority.
I feel what is missing most from the United States is a sense of community, love, and acceptance of the differences we may have about issues in the world. If I had one wish for today, it would be to make the world a more peaceful place.
-Benjamin Haas, communication studies graduate student
Source: The Daily Reveille